I made a mistake this week. Indie authors and newbie editors: read about my experience to help your author–editor relationships be on a firm footing.

A screenshot from the rejection email from a potential client.
A screenshot of part of my reply to the rejection email.

⚖️ To provide some balance to the smugness which might inadvertently come across when I post on this account, I want to tell you about something that didn’t work out this week. 

🙃 And I’m ok with that.

I wrote recently that my sample to signed contract conversion rate is really healthy.

It still is.

But there was one author I didn’t sign this week. 

It’s a shame as I would have liked to work on her book but, when it came to sample stage, it revealed we weren’t compatible.

There are many ways to approach editing and proofreading. The definitions of what these services are, especially in the indie world, can be blurred.

And, therefore, when you’re doing this kind of work for indies, it can be subjective.

I wonder if I felt it in my waters as I did something different to normal. I recorded a quick video (with a shared screen of the edited sample) to explain why I’d done what I’d done and I said that maybe she’d find it too heavy, too light, or just right for what she was looking for and that I was happy to be guided by her for the edit proper.

Anyway, that didn’t work out. I had done too much for her liking. And, despite saying that I could adjust as required, she very politely declined. 

I can understand that. My method for the edit was pretty much my default, I’ll be honest. And if she wasn’t keen on my default, then I imagine she’d rather not take the risk of the whole edit being the same even if I said I’d adjust to a lighter touch if that was preferred.

Does this show me and my editing skills in a negative light? I don’t think so. (35 happy clients and counting…)

Instead, I think that sharing this experience could be helpful. There are messages here for authors and editors (especially those — in both cases — who are fairly new to this.)

🖊 Indie authors:

  • Your book is your baby. You ultimately have control over it. 
  • Research professionals who can help you with the editing and proofreading stages.
  • Get a sense of the editor/proofreader from their website/social media profile. Like the way they roll? Reach out to them and get the show on the road.
  • If the editor/proofreader offers some sort of sample stage (free or otherwise) take advantage of that. You’re not committing yourself to anything by doing this. 
  • So, does that mean you should send your sample to a long list of editors/proofreaders? No. Because it is subjective, there’s a chance that sending too many samples off will muddy the waters and you’ll have a tough time making a decision. ‘Editor X was great because … but why didn’t they … like editor Y? Yet Editor Y didn’t … like Editor Z.’ That’s got to be an exhausting process. So, what to do? I reckon if you’ve scheduled enough wiggle room for this, send one sample off at a time. You may only ever need to send one. Based on your research, gut feeling and sample edit, the first one might be the right one. No need to send it to any more beyond this stage if you’re happy with what comes back to you. 
  • But, if you don’t feel right on the return of the edited sample, politely decline and move on. This is ok. You have the right to do this.
  • Do all of this several months in advance of your desired window for your manuscript to be edited/proofread. Even if you haven’t finished your book yet, (for editing anyway), send a sample. It’ll be enough to show you whether you’re happy with your editor’s work and then you’ll both be set to hit the ground running for your booked-in slot further down the line.

You know what else was quite incredible about the scenario that I had this week: the author, when declining, offered to pay me for the sample (even though it had been offered for free.) 

And as you can see from the screenshot, she’s nevertheless offered to recommend me and tell people about my services. 

So she recognises that, although it wasn’t for her, it could be right for other people.

🔎 Editors/proofreaders:

  • Encourage authors to send their samples early in the communication process. Get that done as soon as possible as all else rests on it. It’ll do neither of you any favours if the sample and pencilled-in proofread/edit dates are too close together. The author needs to have time to find someone else if you’re not the right fit for them, and you will need some time to find another client to fill that slot if things don’t work out.
  • Follow the client’s brief to the letter. Don’t revert to your default. Actually, as in everything, I suppose you have a choice here. If you only want to work in your default way, that’s fine. Go for it and chances are many authors will be happy with your default. But that’s not a given. Your default might not suit them and so it’s important to be very clear on their expectations and wishes. 
  • As you go forward, make sure that you’re asking the right questions of authors before you sit down to do the sample stage. Maybe that might involve a form that needs filling in. Maybe that will involve showing a snapshot of what an edit/proofread from you normally looks like. I’m talking here about an example of previous work based on a small part of a manuscript which you’ve sought permission to share. Ask your repeat clients whether you can screenshot something you’ve done for them for the purposes of future marketing. As long as it’s not sensitive material, chances are they won’t mind. Your best shot is with those clients who’ve freely written testimonials for your work. They wish you well and are likely to be happy to help you develop your business.
  • Don’t think about the sample as an ‘oh-I-also-need-to’ task on your week’s schedule. Rejig your week so that sample(s) can be done with the best of your energy. They are the things leading to your bills being paid further down the line. Don’t do what I did this week which was to do a sample when tired (after finishing a 57k-word edit.) That’s why I reverted to default in a scenario where my default wasn’t called for.
  • Recognise that you will get some thanks-but-no-thanks responses from potential clients along the way. This does not mean that you’re bad at your job. You just weren’t the right person for them and vice versa. It’s a bit like authors getting one star reviews. They all know they will at some point. It comes down to taste. ‘The Hunger Games’ has some one star reviews. So does ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and ‘Nineteen-Eighty Four.’ That’s when readers have read something that’s not for them. You’ll have clients that are not for you just as you’re not for them. Be gracious and move on.

And that’s what I’m doing. I wish the author all the best for getting the right person for the job. I really like her writing style and she deserves to do well. She treats her author journey with the respect it deserves and is on track to do amazing things.

I made a mistake this week. I’m human. But this failure was a lesson I needed to learn at this stage of my business development.

That makes me a winner, baby. 

😁 Let the smugness resume.

Ariana Huffington – Failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success.

Published by clairecherryedits

CherryEdits.com Indie Fiction Specialist. Line Editing. Copy Editing. Proofreading.

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